espagnole sauce
Great for hearty roasted or pan-fried meat dishes, Espagnole sauce (a.k.a brown sauce) is one of the more complex one amongst the French mother sauces. An important sauce to learn for every great cook, as it serves as a starting point for demi-glace and many other great secondary sauces such as Bordelaise, Chasseur and Robert.

This sauce is made from brown roux and brown stock (roasted bones), with addition of tomatoes towards the end. The process may be rather involved if you choose to make your own brown stock, but the resulting flavour makes it all worthwhile as its freezable in your ice cube trays. A little upfront effort on a weekend for weeks of easy, amazing meals seems like a no-brainer to me.   

Velouté ("vuh-loo-tay") - one of the five classical French "mother sauces" - is a stock-based sauce thickened with white roux. Methodically similar to Bechamel, it differs in that velouté uses white stock (stock made using unroasted bones) whereas Bechamel is milk-based. It's especially great with poultry and seafood dishes, although veal and ham velouté are not uncommon.

Seasoning is not needed as Velouté is commonly used as a foundation sauce for other secondary sauces, such as Sauce Allemande (veal-based), Sauce Vin Blanc (white wine sauce), Sauce Poulette (versatile), Sauce Normandy (fish-based), Sauce Bercy (fish-based), and Sauce Supreme (chicken-based).

Once you'd mastered Bechamel, this should be a breeze to add-on in your sauce repertoire. It's a versatile sauce applicable to most dishes. Using a good quality stock base is key.

Leftover eggs funny
As the long weekend’s events mellow, are you finding yourself sitting on a pile of leftover eggs after Easter and wondering what to do with them?

We suggest poaching them; poaching eggs is like playing Barbie – the same body can have a hundred and one different outfits and be called different names – allowing you to play with a myriad of concoctions yet never tire of the same main item.

Here we have compiled a list of exciting recipes; originate from Turkey to Japan, where poached eggs emerge as the star ingredient.

Beautiful Béchamel in Minutes
Béchamel ("bay-sha-mel") - one of the 5 classical French "mother sauces" - is commonly known as the white sauce. It is a milk-based sauce consisting of 3 main ingredients: butter, flour, milk. Largely used in lasagne, moussaka, macaroni cheese, pie fillings and croque monsieur, its also great with fish, eggs, steamed vegetables, pastas and poultry dishes.

In a nutshell, equal quantities (by weight) of flour and butter are cooked together to form a white roux, of which then milk is added in gradually while whisking to obtain a smooth velvety texture. Then, it is seasoned with salt, white pepper and sometimes ground nutmeg to finish.

Amongst the "mother sauces", this is my recommended sauce to master first given its vast application and relative ease of execution. Here's a tried and tested recipe with a few tips for a successful first go at making your own Béchamel.

Tomate ("toe-maht") is a tomato-based sauce usually served as part of a dish, rather than a condiment (i.e. it's not ketchup!). Part of the French mother sauces, it pairs well with grilled vegetables, fish, poultry, bread, beef and pasta. 

The classical French recipes tend to use roux as thickener, but nowadays chefs prepare this sauce just with tomato reductions or purées as it's sufficient to thicken the sauce.

Once you master this, secondary sauces such as Spanish, Creole, Provencal and Portuguese are all easy as pie. Here's a modern recipe of tomate sauce (without roux) using streaky bacon as flavouring.

Hollandaise ("ol-uhn-dehz") is a rich sauce formed by an emulsion of egg yolk, butter and lemon / vinegar. A perfect complement with eggs (especially the sous vide ones), vegetables, fish, chicken and even beef (through secondary sauce Bearnaise).  It's also one of the 5 French Mother Sauces you can master.

A great Hollandaise is rich and buttery, with a mild tang from the lemon juice. It is best prepared and served warm, but not hot.

Despite its reputation of being a notoriously difficult sauce to make,  we have tried-and-tested various methods and zeroed in on one so that you can master it quickly just with a little practice. 

We love Harold McGee's straightforward, no-nonsense and minimal clean up method of just using a saucepan and a whisk. Plus some useful troubleshooting tips to make that weekend brunch extra special.

As Julia Child eloquently summed up: “Sauces are the glory and splendour of French cooking”.

French cookbooks like Larousse and Escoffier literally lists hundreds of sauces. To grasp a whole tome full of quirky names can be a tad intimidating but thankfully, this extensive list was consolidated to just five, which forms the foundation for many other sauces in French cuisine and hence the term "mother" sauce, while its variations “daughter” sauces.

Just with these 5 sauces, you can easily concoct a myriad of others just by adding spices, herbs and other ingredients. 

Teochew braised duck sous vide version
Teochew duck - sous-vide version
With Chinese New Year (CNY) just around the corner, it never ceases to evoke fond childhood memories of this merry celebration - the jubilant atmosphere, abundance of red (representing good luck) and of course, the glorious food spread in Malaysia!

Like other major festivals of different cultures, CNY is the opportunity for families and friends to gather for a big catch up after a busy year. Each household/family generally has a designated main gathering spot, usually hosted by parents or the eldest sibling in the family. 

One of the things I missed most is my Teochew aunt's signature CNY dish, the Teochew Braised Duck. 

Teochew cuisine originated from the Chinese cities of Chaozhou, Shantou, and Jieyang in Guangdong province. Teochew cooking is all about natural flavours and high quality ingredients, hence it's tendency to apply healthier methods such as poaching, steaming and braising.

For such a majestic dish, it was exhilarating to discover that my aunt's recipe is surprisingly simple. "The key to this dish," she whispered to me, "is to get a good quality duck" - very Teochew indeed. Here's her recipe along with my (adapted) sous-vide spin on it.